MOCVD of tin oxide for gas sensors
Thin films of a wide variety of materials can be produced using an assortment of physical and chemical techniques. Such techniques are reviewed and compared, with particular reference to the deposition of tin oxide films. In the present study, MOCVD (Metal organic chemical vapour deposition) was used to grow thin films of tin oxide from dibutyltin diacetate precursor on a variety of substrates. A series of reactor prototypes were developed in accordance with specific requirements of reproducibility and process control. The evolution of the designs leading to the final working system is detailed. The theory of MOCVD is given with particular reference to the reactor used in this project. The effects of various deposition parameters on tin oxide film growth rates were investigated, and the results are discussed with reference to the deposition kinetics in the system. Films were characterised by optical interferometry, optical and electron microscopy, X-ray diffraction, Rutherford backscattering and electrical measurements. The films were generally uniform, conducting and polycrystalline, and were comprised of very small grains, resulting in a high density. A specific application of metal oxide materials is in solid state gas sensors, which are available in various forms and operate according to different mechanisms. These are compared and a detailed account is given on the theory of operation of surface conductivity modulated devices. The application of such devices based on tin oxide in thin film form was investigated in the present work. The prepared sensor samples were comprised of very small grains, resulting in a high density. The observation that preferred (310) orientation occurred in thicker films, can be attributed to dendritic growth. The sensors generally showed response to numerous reducing gas ambients, although there was evidence of a degree of selectivity against methane. Sensor response times due to changes in gas ambients between hydrogen and dried air were related to sensor thickness in terms of a grain surface defect diffusion process. This is driven by the equilibrium requirement between the exposed, gas modulated film surface states and inter-grain surface defects which are not subject to direct interaction with the gas ambient, owing to low structural porosity.